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By Mark Bell | July 27, 2008

I’m not normally swayed by trailers or television spots, but I’m not going to lie; I was really enjoying the promotional bits for “Step Brothers,” the latest comic offering from Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”). For some reason, for instance, constantly mimicking John C. Reilly’s delivery of “Hello, Miss Lady” has brought me constant glee. That said, “Step Brothers” did not.

Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly) are two early 40-something men who still live at home with their parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, respectively). When their parents meet up at a conference and decide to get married, Brennan and Dale find themselves sharing one house together as step brothers, and as the two are man-children (both of them behave as if they’re barely out of middle school), they harass and torture each other until they find common ground on which to become friends (common ground that occurs when Dale decks Brennan’s over-achieving, cookie-cutter a*****e of a younger brother, Derek (Adam Scott)).

Simply, the movie is a tale of extremes resulting in a tepid middleground. The film’s R-rating leads you to believe the comedy would get raunchier than it does (as does an early sequence involving Will Ferrell’s balls and a drum kit), and it has moments of brilliance that you will continue to quote long after the film has ended, and yet the majority of dialogue and comedy is subpar. Absurdist, yes, but little more than the novelty of having characters in their early 40s, who behave like they’re in middle school, using profanity to make it seem as if middle schoolers are doing the cursing. Think “The Landlord” if the kid wasn’t actually a kid. It loses a lot of its effectiveness.

Additionally, the rest of the humor is so stunted and non-offensive or raunchy that it feels like the film doesn’t know what vibe to finally rest on. Couple that with the fact that there is footage being used in promotions for the film that isn’t even in the film (moreso than is standard) and one could believe that an entirely other cut of this film must exist somewhere, and if so, we’re going to see an uncut DVD and, in the meantime, be under-served by the regular release.

Still, as I stated, there are moments of brilliance. John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell finding themselves at the mercy of a mob of school children is hilarious, as is anytime Will Ferrell’s character Brendan sings (or attempts to sing) and the finale, at the f*****g Catalina Wine Mixer, is wonderful. Unfortunately these moments are scattered throughout a bunch of blah, with the best part of the film coming during the end credits, which is normally not a good sign.

If you see “Step Brothers,” will you laugh? Most likely, at some point, you will find it funny. Some of you will find their stunted behavior hilarious, and if so the film will be non-stop humor for you because, well, that’s a constant. For others, the act may wear thin but there are enough other moments coming at you that, like a joke grenade, something is going to hit you somewhere. I personally think the film was mixed-to-poor, and a major letdown.

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